HOLLIS — The FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to a blackmailer who has injured animals, set vehicles ablaze and left bizarre, rhyming extortion notes for a local farmer.
Gary and Diana Bergeron, the owners of Rickety Ranch in Hollis, have been terrorized over the past two years by multiple extortion letters seeking $250,000 and experienced repeated acts of vandalism and violence.
The odd extortion letters drew the attention of the FBI to the case, according to an agent. The FBI hopes the release of the blackmailer’s letter and riddles will lead to his capture.
One such letter reads:
I saw your flag on your lawn
And time almost gone
I know your (sic) in
Just pay me know (sic) and you will win.”
FBI Special Agent Brian O’Hara said the victim does not understand some of the references in the letters — for example: where to deposit money — and fears he or farm workers could be hurt.
“You’ve got to understand, [the extortionist] is operating in fear,” O’Hara said. O’Hara would not answer questions about whether the FBI’s behavioral analysis experts are involved in the case.
The FBI said it is limiting the amount of information it releases, such as the number of letters, the dates of the damage and details of what kind of animals were killed and injured. There has been thousands of dollars in vandalism to the property, a barn and vehicles attributed to the extortion plot.
“The whole thing is just unfortunate, but I think the FBI has a good handle on it,” said owner Gary Bergeron, who declined to comment further on the extortion Tuesday. “I don’t want to interfere with what they are doing.”
The FBI also released photographs of two spaniels it said were victims of the crime. The dogs were not killed, said FBI spokesman Kristen Setera.
In exchange for $250,000, the extortionist offers to spare the family further harm and claims to be capable of settling ongoing disputes between the farm and the town, according to the FBI.
“The vicious shakedown of this family and the use of violence to intimidate them will not be tolerated. We’re asking anyone with information about who is terrorizing them to come forward and share that information with us so we can put a stop to it and bring whoever is responsible to justice,” Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a statement.
Rickety Ranch offers hands-on educational opportunities for children to work on a farm and with farm animals. Many of the children come from troubled homes or have disabilities. Some of the animals were rescued from abuse. A Facebook page shows horses, cattle and poultry.
As we say, “not only are our fences ‘rickety’ but the animals and children all have some rickety too,” the farm’s website reads.
Mark Le Doux, chairman of the Hollis Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday there have been some potential zoning violations on the property, which he is hopeful will be resolved soon. Those issues prompted the town to file a lawsuit against the Bergerons to get them to comply with town regulations, according to Le Doux. The lawsuit is still pending.
“The fact of the matter is, the planning board and zoning board have been working with the owners of that parcel to rectify some modifications to the property that involve accessory living units that are not permitted,” he said. “We have had multiple code infraction issues.”
Le Doux said an accessory dwelling was created within a garage or some other location on the property without the proper permitting. He stressed that town officials have nothing to do with the attacks against Rickety Ranch.
“We are not threatening anybody … nobody needs this kind of nonsense,” said Le Doux.
The FBI is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the location, arrest and prosecution of those responsible.
Anyone with information can contact the FBI Boston Division at 857-386-2000. Tips may also be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.